I am the Keymaster, Are You the Gatecreeper? Sonoran Depravation, Reviewed


The Sonoran Desert is perhaps the most brutal place in North America. The summer temperatures routinely hit 120 degrees, it only receives between 3-16 inches of rainfall annually, and it has HAIRY FUCKING SCORPIONS. It should come as no surprise then that Tuscon’s Gatecreeper, living on the outskirts of this sabulose nightmare, could create the sonic equivalent of slowly being crushed by a hunk of sandstone.

In their three years of existence Gatecreeper have been steadily releasing music including an EP and multiple splits (including one with Toilet favorites Take Over and Destroy), and with each release their songwriting chops have gotten just a bit stronger and their sound just a bit filthier. On their debut, Sonoran Depravation, they’ve really found their voice and have delivered on every sonic promise they’ve made in years past. Their influence is undeniably Swedish, but this isn’t just a retread of everything that came out in 1991. Hell, this isn’t even a retread of the sea of knockoffs we’ve seemingly been drowning in for the last several years. What Gatecreeper brings to us here is a step (maybe even two!) above what almost all swedeath influenced bands are doing today. The songs presented here are mostly short and sweet, bite-sized doses of jackhammer aggression wrapped in Dismember melodies.

The first aural heatwave comes in the form of lead single “Craving Flesh.” If you’re the kind of elitist bastard that judges an album based on its first riff then you’ll be giving Sonoran Depravation high marks, that opening riff offering the kind of sinister stomp that hasn’t been seen since Shawn Michaels kicked Marty Jannetty into oblivion. That “stomp” is the wheelhouse where this album lives, occasionally speeding up, but generally settling for slightly-souped-up segway. But, you know, if those things were sick and not just for assholes.


That very first riff, as wicked as it is, may not even be the best on the album, and let’s be honest: This kind of death metal lives and dies by its riffs. Gatecreeper have absolutely stuffed Sonoran Depravation to the gills with RIFFS. Those caps are no joke as these are some real winners, the kind that worm their way into your head like a carnivorous earwig and makes the back of your head their home. A personal favorite is the main riff of “Lost Forever,” featuring a grotesque swing that seems almost tailor-made for headbanging, windmilling or any/all pit activities. When they aren’t inciting a riot, Gatecreeper also dabble in sugar cookie sweet guitar melodies that will have even the hardest man humming along. Take the guitar line from “Desperation” for instance which, in all its brevity, still manages to soar and elevates the final 30 seconds of the song into a state of death metal euphoria. The entire album benefits from these moments as they help transform riffy bruisers into catchy, memorable cuts of death metal.

Sonoran Depravation is also an album helped by its brevity. Its run time is a brisk 33 minutes and change, and it feels just about perfect for this kind of music. That 33 minutes being spread across 9 different tracks certainly gives you plenty to chew on, especially considering the quality of each song, but it’s also just short enough to leave you wanting and coming back for more. That’s why we listen to death metal after all, isn’t it? To be hooked by the music like any number of faceless victims on a Cannibal Corpse cover. Gatecreeper does as good a job as anyone this year of sinking their hooks in deep.

In a year that has been absolutely stacked with death metal releases, Sonoran Depravation stands out from the crowd. Its superb blend of muscular riffs and disgusting melodies launches it over most of the pack, and in 2016 that’s no easy feat. Even if you find yourself burned out on the borderline absurd amount of Swedish style death metal that comes out in any given year, this album is worth the investment of both your time and money.

4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell


Sonoran Depravation is out October 7th via Relapse Records. You can preorder it here and keep up with the band, including their current tour with Skeletonwitch and Iron Reagan, here.

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  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Make the metal of death again.

    • God

      Metal again of the Death make.

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Yes, which is lame, oh well…

        • I do love that design and tagline though. I just feel dumb knowing that it’s Reinkaos era. I have a patch of it on my one battle jacket. No fucks given.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yeah, I felt the same actually. That patch is awesome, except the album it’s associated with. That phrase was actually referenced by the original bass player in this video, during the interviews. So awkward. I can’t find the part. It’s worth a watch anyway and was the last time Dimmu Borgir was worth a shit.

          • Dimmu Borgir got really poopy really fast.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Pretty much, Shit Commander.

          • You dig Old Man’s Child at all? I dig some of their early albums.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            I have The Pagan Prosperity and that’s it. Haven’t listened to it in years.

          • Ah, good album to own! It’s been years since I’ve last listened to them too. I should revisit the first Dimmu album again too.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Dimmu was alright up until Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. After that it became one huge shitfest of face-melting cringe.

          • Agreed, I’m not a huge fan of symphonic black metal but Triumphant was a rad album. Plus top hats!!!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Definitely. I’m not a big fan of symphonic metal in general, but Triumphant was sympho-black done well. Never understood why they went full-on “Hans-Zimmer-by-the-way-of-bondage-techno metal”.

          • Damage_Inc89

            Maybe I ought to check out their early stuff. I never really listened to them. By the time I really had seen much about them, they looked like they’d be another Cradle of Filth sort of thing, and Dani Filth is just intolerable.

            But of course, I did listen to some old CoF eventually and there are some riffs to be had. I still don’t really listen to ’em now, but I’ll admit that they at least weren’t so cringey at some point in time. I imagine Dimmu is much the same way.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I actually think Dusk…and Her Embrace is a fantastic album and more unique than any of Dimmu’s albums. But Dusk…was kinda a fluke for me, because I can’t stand any of Cradle’s other stuff.

          • Ayreonaut


      • Benjamin

        That exact logo is on the back of my Storm of the Light’s Bane shirt so maybe it was before the Reinkaos era.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          The pitchfork logo was for sure, but the anti-cosmic stuff was Reinkaos era.

          • Benjamin

            It also says Anti-Cosmic Metal of Death on it. Maybe I got some bootleg shirt that combined elements.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            It’s updated to combine the old and the new.

    • I made a thing that took way to long and ended up sucking. But, here it is.


  • One hell of a good band name, I’ll give them that! I can’t really put my finger on it exactly, but I think the hardcore vibe sort of ruins this band for me. Mostly with those vocals.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    this is almost too paint by numbers. I won’t be buying the record for this at this time. Just not special enough

  • I just keep clicking replay. Its gooood.


  • Gonna have to wishlist this one because you can never have enough HM-2. I think their appeal extends beyond death metal. The Entombedcore folks like myself who like the Nails and the Trap Thems can get down with this.


      • Waynecro


  • I give this review 5/7 fives out of seven.

    • God

      5 fives out of se7ens – IGN

  • Óðinn
  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Great review!

  • Waynecro

    Nice review, dude! This shit goes hard as fuck. I can dig it!

    • Would you say that you would like to lift to it in your garage gym?

      That is likely the answer we are all itching to know.

      • Waynecro

        I’m a one-dimensional monster.

  • JWEG

    I approve of the Ghostbusters reference, but childhood nostalgia means I’ll always prefer the sequel.


    I made reasons clear in a past ToVH post, so doing it again (or linking it) would just seem like vote-farming. I’m not above doing that, but I won’t today…

    • Why Am I Drippings In Goo?

    • Howard Dean

      That scene scared the shit out of me when I was a wee lad.

      • and the god damn Ernie Hudson train scene in the bottom of the sewer! yikes

        • JWEG

          I can sit calmly through all kinds of horror film scares, yet that one makes me jump and reach for the lights (on) every time.

  • Good review, mustachebearbro!

  • JWEG

    Review-related note: I’ve found way more than just three independent positive reviews of the album to triangulate a must-buy recommendation; but I was waiting for this one to complete the sweep.

    It’s also up for pre-order on bandcamp: https://gatecreeper.bandcamp.com/

    • I’m not too much into hardcore, but the tone in this one is p good!

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    This is reasonably filthy; but still not as filthy as this:


  • JWEG

    Though, I must assume that “depravation” is some kind of morbid word-pun on the similarity between “deprave” and “deprive”, and not something that slipped by an editor and/or spell-checker.

    Or maybe it’s a reference to West Side Story…

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    That article title is A++++++++++++

    And so is the review! Excellent work as always Leif. I may have to work this album into my current listening roster.

    Also, I see no problem with judging an album by its first riff, jajajaja

  • Ted Nü-Djent ™

    Can’t wait for my copy to arrive. I haven’t been feeling a whole lo of death metal lately but the tracks I’ve heard have gotten those juices flowing again. Great review.

    • i hear the new Anthrax is p heavy, almost death metal-y even.
      (this has been a Facebook inside joke, thx for playing)